IT projects on track, but more budget needed: Amir

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Amir Malik is presently working as Member IT, Ministry of Information Technology. He has also served as Managing Director PSEB and Chief Executive of Pak Datacom Limited, Pakistan. He has previously worked as Head of Regulatory Compliance at Ufone, PTML and at Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in the capacity of Director (ICT) for four years. He is the winner of numerous prestigious awards for his professional achievements

Q:Do you think the budget allocated for IT development for scrutinizing and monitoring IT projects is enough?

A: At the moment, sufficient funding is being provided to monitor IT projects in the country. The Ministry of IT is running a research and development project which is looking into IT policy development, and evaluation of IT projects. The National ICT RandD Fund under the Ministry of IT also has an evaluation team for scrutinizing ICT projects. The government of Pakistan has also advised Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) to start a survey to get updated statistics of the countrys IT industry. This will provide useful information such as exports revenue, and resource pool which is available and required by the industry. However, budgets for such activities are limited and, therefore, need to be used with proper planning. More funding and financial planning is crucial to evaluate customized and innovative IT solutions as well as for developing Pakistans ICT sector.

Q:ICT as a catalyst for social development, do you think this statement works?

A: ICT is an important enabler of all socio-economic sectors including banking, insurance, government, manufacturing, media, education, defense and agriculture. Progressive initiatives in ICT have already helped expand the development and progress of all key sectors. For example, governments have become more transparent and efficient in providing citizen services. In agriculture, IT based programmes provide timely information to farmers such as weather reports. In Banking, almost all of the banks offer real-time secure Online Banking services. Moreover, in the Healthcare sector, medical information of patients can be stored on an integrated healthcare information management system for timely access. Almost 25 million people in Pakistan are using the internet and around 15 million use the internet through their mobiles. Mobile applications have become a critical source of data to people from all walks of life. If we can offer these users the content and applications as and when they need it, then ICT can greatly help the economy and the development of these sectors.

Q:In IT awareness what role/ projects introduced by Ministry of Information Technology?

A: Several IT programmes are underway by the Ministry of Information Technology to promote IT awareness within the government, private sector and general masses. The National Information Technology Board (NITB) has been established in an effort to reorganize and strengthen the provision of e-governance in Pakistan. The e-Office automated system in being implemented across different government departments and IT training is being provided to government employees.

Some of the projects to help ICT Industry include the recent 3G/4G Spectrum Auction, establishment of state-of-the-art Technology Parks in major cities, formation of Inter-Ministerial Committee for the establishment of e-Payment Gateway, finalization of the draft “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill”. Assistance has been provided to software companies for certification of ISO 27001 (IT Security Standard) and CMMI level 2/above.

The public is being given greater access to citizen services. Online forms have been developed for government offices which are readily available. Work has started to establish Universal Tele-centers, and new programmes have been introduced in the Virtual University of Pakistan for distance learning. Through Internship programmes, numerous IT Graduates have been given internships at IT companies.

Q:Tell us about the national IT policy?

A: The Ministry of IT has drafted an IT Policy that was shared with all the relevant stakeholders including public/private organizations, civil society and academia. Valuable input/feedback was received from the stakeholders and incorporated in the draft. A draft document will be incorporated as a part of the MoIT ICT Policy. The National IT Policy shall cater to new trends in the field of IT and IT enabling services (ITES) and play a significant role in national development and GDP growth.

Q:Tell us about the efforts to encourage women in IT?

A: The Information and Communications Technology sector can play a major role in empowering women not only in the ICT sector but across other sectors such as agriculture, health, education, and commerce to name a few. The internet has changed the dynamics in which the world communicates, conducts business and socially interacts. Technology can now help women contribute more to the society and economy. They can acquire an income through a secure and safe environment. Female entrepreneurs can have access to relevant information, online training, knowledge sharing, online networks, and platform to market their skills or products to a larger customer base. The Ministry of IT is focusing on programmes to empower women through internship programmes and training of ICT graduates.

Q:What is the IT sectors unique selling point?

A: Pakistan has immense expertise in IT Product Development, Software Development and Services, Mobile Applications, Gaming, and Animation, IT-Enabled Services (Business Process Outsourcing and Call Centers), Systems Integration, Consulting and Embedded Systems. The demand for Pakistani IT services exists across various sectors including Banking and Finance, Telecommunications and Utilities, Public and Semi-Public Sector, Multinationals, and Private as well as Non-Profit Sectors. Moreover, Pakistan offers 100 per cent ownership of equity allowed to investing foreign IT/ITeS companies and 100 per cent repatriation of profits to IT companies.

We need to build stronger ties with other countries and promote advancements in technology by Pakistani entrepreneurs. The Ministry of IT and PSEB are already working towards building business opportunities and alliances with different countries. This can be through easier business visa access, joint ICT events and exhibitions, special market access programmes, and knowledge sharing to name a few.

Q:What is the way forward to strengthening the IT Industry?

A: The Ministry of IT is continually looking into initiatives to help advance Pakistans ICT sector in line with international best practices and experiences within the country. As a priority, we need to focus on using ICT for good governance to help reform and simplify national workflows through e-governance and electronic citizen services. This would ensure reliability, transparency and efficiency in government processes and lead towards revenue generation.

We need to further build a solid infrastructure for ICT enablement. The government of Pakistan is in the process of establishing of a state of the art Technology Park in Islamabad with the help of the World Bank. The idea is to invite international businesses, promote cross-sector collaborations and provide latest facilities to incubators and ICT companies. More widespread connectivity and affordable Internet access to all communities across Pakistan will advance trade and communication.

Research and Development fundings need to be readily available for ICT professionals to focus on latest technologies such as cloud computing, nanotechnology and biotechnology. A Venture Capital Fund is planned to be established by the present government to facilitate the IT Industry to start new projects.

IT and IT enabled services (ITES) can help resolve major issues in Pakistan through long-term solutions. If the ICT sector is steered in a focused and well defined direction, then substantial progress can be made in the domestic IT market and human resources.


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Published in: Volume 05 Issue 48

Short Link: http://www.technologytimes.pk/?p=12544